BP Alaska agrees to pay $125k fine over hazardous waste violations on North Slope

BP’s operations center at Prudhoe Bay. (Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Oil company BP Alaska has agreed to pay $125,100 in fines over hazardous waste violations on the North Slope.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement last week.

The federal agency claims BP failed to properly label hazardous materials in two buildings at Prudhoe Bay. It also alleges that the oil company didn’t have adequate insurance to cover injuries or property damage that could come from storing and handling hazardous waste.

“They’re required to have significant insurance or at least financial resources on hand to handle any claims and we discovered during an inspection that, for several years, they had not,” said Bill Dunbar, a spokesman for the EPA Region 10 Office in Seattle.

BP Alaska has neither admitted to nor denied the claims, according to the consent agreement reached between the oil company and the government.

In a written statement, BP Alaska spokeswoman Megan Baldino said the company worked closely with the EPA to resolve its concerns over the insurance for the Prudhoe Bay operations.

BP is now in compliance with the federal requirements, Dunbar said.

The violations stem from an inspection of BP’s Prudhoe Bay facility in the summer of 2018, he said.

The EPA discovered seven waste aerosol cans in a flammable storage locker at a seawater treatment plant that weren’t labeled or marked “hazardous waste,” according to the consent agreement. At a production center, the agency found a 21-gallon can that stored waste solvent rags and wasn’t properly labeled.

The federal agency also claims that BP Alaska failed to maintain adequate liability coverage for five years, starting in 2014. That’s in violation of the company’s federal hazardous waste permit, according to the EPA.

Under the permit, BP Alaska can “store in excess of 200,000 pounds of hazardous waste, such as flammable and toxic wastes from oil exploration, on leased state land in a sensitive tundra environment,” said a statement from the EPA last week.

The EPA’s claims against BP come as the oil company prepares to exit Alaska. BP intends to sell its entire Alaska business to Hilcorp in a $5.6 billion deal, including its stakes in the Prudhoe Bay oil field and the trans-Alaska pipeline. The sale is still pending.

Related: About half of BP’s Alaska employees have accepted a job with Hilcorp

In recent years, the EPA has stepped up its efforts to ensure facilities permitted to handle hazardous waste have the required liability coverage, Dunbar said.

“The communities that live around facilities that store or manage or dispose of hazardous waste should know that were something to happen, that they could seek damages and get the damages paid,” he said.

[Read our continuing coverage of the pending BP sale]